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April 24, 2023 9 min read

Dealing with weight loss can be a real pain when you've got thyroid disease. Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid messes with your metabolism. And without enough thyroid hormones, it can be tough to lose weight even when you're eating right and exercising. But don't worry! By figuring out what to eat (and what not to eat), plus when and how to eat, you can give your weight loss a boost. So, let's check out some strategies that'll help you get started with losing weight, even with hypothyroidism.

1. Plan your meals carefully

Healthy food to help you lose weight due to hypothyroidism.

Your diet can play a significant role in managing your hypothyroidism and losing weight. Therefore, it's important to plan your meals carefully to ensure that you are getting the nutrients you need while also managing your calorie intake. Just remember to think about how certain foods might affect your thyroid and adjust your diet as needed.

While there's no one-size-fits-all diet for hypothyroidism, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) points out that food can impact hypothyroidism in a few ways:

  • Some foods might not mix well with your medications

  • Eating foods rich in specific nutrients, like iodine, selenium, and zinc, can help your thyroid work better

  • On the flip side, some foods might actually hurt your thyroid function.

Your thyroid needs the right amount of iodine to work its best. Too much or too little can lead to hypothyroidism. But watch out if you have Hashimoto's thyroiditis or another autoimmune issue that affects your thyroid. Foods and supplements with lots of iodine might not agree with you, and they could even make your thyroid function worse.

Here's what you need to focus on when it comes to managing weight when you have low thyroid function:

Avoid fad diets

Fad diets may promise quick weight loss results, but they are often not sustainable in the long term and can actually harm your health. Additionally, some fad diets may not provide you with the nutrients you need to manage your hypothyroidism. It's best to stick to a balanced and varied diet that includes a mix of healthy carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Eat more protein

Protein plays a crucial role in weight loss and hypothyroidism management. Besides keeping you satisfied and full, protein aids in maintaining and building muscle mass, which in turn supports a healthy metabolism. Additionally, protein can curb your appetite, making it easier to burn calories and resist the temptation to overindulge. To incorporate high-quality protein into your diet, opt for sources such as lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, and nuts.

Eat more carbohydrates

Contrary to popular belief, low-carb diets may not be the best choice for individuals with hypothyroidism. It may actually hinder weight loss. Insufficient carbohydrate intake can lead to heightened cortisol and adrenaline levels. When this occurs, the body enters starvation mode, drawing energy from muscle rather than fat stores. Additionally, an extremely low-calorie diet can deprive your body of the essential nutrients needed to maintain overall health. So, focus on incorporating healthy, complex carbohydrates into your meals.

Reduce processed foods and sugar intake

Processed foods and sugar can be detrimental to your health, and they can also hinder your weight loss efforts. They are often high in simple calories, low in nutrients, and can cause inflammation in your body. Aim to reduce your intake of these foods and replace them with whole, nutrient-dense foods.

Include more healthy fats in your diet

Healthy fats are an important part of a balanced diet and can be helpful for managing hypothyroidism. They also help you feel fuller and more satisfied after meals. Good sources of healthy fats include butter, tallow, coconut oil.

Incorporate thyroid-supporting nutrients

There are several nutrients that are important for thyroid health and can be beneficial for weight loss. These include selenium, zinc, iron, and, as mentioned above, iodine. You can find these nutrients in foods such as seafood, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and leafy greens. Additionally, you may want to consider taking a multivitamin or thyroid-specific supplement to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need.

2. Be mindful of when and how much to eat

When it comes to weight loss with thyroid disease, the timing and portion sizes of your meals and snacks play a crucial role in achieving success.

Go for small but frequent meals

Since hypothyroidism can slow down your digestion, it's a good idea to eat smaller meals more often. By including balanced macronutrients in each meal—think quality proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats—you'll keep your blood sugar steady and avoid the ups and downs that come with eating large, processed meals.

How much should you eat?

The Importance of Portion Sizes

Weight loss is significantly influenced by the balance between calorie intake and calories burned throughout the day. Generally, the suggested daily calorie intake for adults includes the following:

  • 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day for women

  • 2,000 to 3,200 calories per day for men

The specific number of calories you require largely depends on factors such as age and physical activity levels. Consulting a healthcare professional or a nutritionist can help you determine the ideal calorie intake for your needs. Again, make sure not to eat fewer calories than your body needs.

3. Exercise regularly

Weight training may help you lose weight due to hypothyroidsim.

We know it's tough to get moving when you're dealing with hypothyroidism symptoms like being tired all the time and achy joints. But if you really want to drop some pounds, it's important to push yourself to exercise.

At the very least, try to aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. You can break this down into five 30-minute exercise sessions or moderate-intensity activities over the week, which could include:

  • tennis

  • basketball

  • running

  • walking

  • rowing

  • swimming

Along with cardio workouts, make sure to include resistance training in your routine at least twice a week. Resistance training can involve:

  • lifting weights

  • using exercise bands

  • performing bodyweight exercises, like pushups or pullups

  • using kettlebells

But remember, before starting any new exercise regimen, it's a good idea to have a chat with your doctor or a physical therapist. They can help you figure out the best level of exercise for your unique situation.

4. Manage stress for weight loss success

Stress can be a real roadblock when it comes to losing weight, especially for those with hypothyroidism. Although the precise connection between stress and hypothyroidism remains unclear, managing stress could potentially aid in weight loss and help sustain it.

Different approaches may work better for some individuals than others; however, some stress-reduction techniques to consider include the following:

  • psychotherapy (talk therapy) or other therapeutic approaches

  • breathing exercises

  • regular exercise

  • practicing mindfulness and meditation

  • yoga

  • journaling

  • minimizing exposure to stressors whenever possible.

Remember, managing stress isn't just fluffy self-care goals - they're essential for your physical and mental well-being. So go ahead, take that bubble bath, or sing that lullaby. Your body and mind will thank you.

5. Prioritize sleep for a slimmer you

Getting enough sleep is important if you want to lose weight due to hypothyroidism.

Surprisingly, getting a good night's sleep can be a secret weapon in your weight loss journey. Sufficient, high-quality sleep is essential for regulating hormones that control hunger and metabolism, thereby making it easier to shed those extra pounds. In fact, prioritizing sleep is one of the most effective ways to enhance weight loss. Several studies have linked sleep deprivation to slow metabolism and obesity, as well as an increased risk of developing heart disease or diabetes.

Aiming for at least seven hours of sleep each night is a wise approach, particularly if weight loss proves challenging.

If you're struggling with sleep, consider implementing the following sleep hygiene practices:

  • Maintain a consistent bedtime routine each night.

  • Remove electronic devices such as TVs, computers, and smartphones from the bedroom.

  • Ensure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and set at a comfortable temperature.

  • Steer clear of large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.

6. Keep your body hydrated

Maintaining proper hydration is crucial for weight loss, regardless of whether one has a thyroid condition. Consuming sufficient water helps keep your metabolism functioning efficiently, and it can also aid in reducing your appetite, eliminating water retention and bloating, and promoting better digestion and elimination.

While there isn't a rigid rule for how much water we should drink daily, the overall recommended water intake for healthy adults is 11.5 cups for individuals females and 15.5 cups for males.

It's important to note that about 20% of our fluid intake is derived from the foods we consume. Consequently, to meet daily fluid requirements, females should aim for approximately 9 cups of water or other fluids, while males should target around 13 cups.

Additional Tips for Losing Weight with Hypothyroidism

Losing weight can be a struggle for anyone, but it can be even more challenging for those with hypothyroidism. However, with a little extra effort and attention, it is possible to achieve your weight loss goals. Here are some additional tips to help you on your weight loss journey with hypothyroidism:

Stay consistent with your diet and exercise

Consistency is key when it comes to weight loss with hypothyroidism. While it may be tempting to try fad diets or extreme exercise routines, these approaches can often do more harm than good. Instead, focus on making sustainable lifestyle changes that you can maintain over the long term. This includes following a healthy, balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise that you enjoy.

Monitor your progress

A woman looking happy and healthy

Monitoring your progress is essential to ensure that you are on track to meet your weight loss goals. This can include tracking your food intake and exercise, as well as taking regular measurements of your weight and body composition. However, it is also important to be patient and kind to yourself, as weight loss resistance is a common issue with hypothyroidism. Remember to celebrate your successes, no matter how small, and keep pushing forward towards your goals.

Try weight loss supplements

Certain supplements are believed to support weight loss. While they haven't been extensively researched, they are typically safe for consumption when taken according to the manufacturer's suggested dosage:

  • Cinnamon

  • Caralluma

  • Grapefruit

  • Coconut

  • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)

  • Hoodia Gordonii

It is essential to consult your healthcare provider before incorporating any weight loss supplement into your routine. Some supplements, such as grapefruit, may interfere with medications like statins (used for treating high cholesterol) and anticoagulants (blood thinners), reducing their effectiveness.

Talk to your doctor about adjusting your dose

If you're struggling with weight loss resistance, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor about adjusting your thyroid medication dosage. Significant weight loss can affect your body weight, which can, in turn, impact your thyroid hormone levels. By adjusting your dose, you can help your body better regulate your metabolism.

Get regular thyroid lab tests

As an individual with hypothyroidism, it's essential to ensure that your thyroid gland functions optimally. Your doctor can assess your thyroid function by ordering a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test. Elevated TSH levels could indicate hypothyroidism, suggesting that you may need to adjust your medication dosage since your condition is under-treated.

Untreated or undertreated hypothyroidism can make weight loss extremely difficult, even with proper diet and exercise. However, it is still possible to experience weight issues even when your thyroid hormone tests indicate optimal levels. In such cases, a comprehensive approach encompassing diet, exercise, and adjustments to other medications that may contribute to weight gain is typically recommended.

Consider switching to another medication

If you've been using levothyroxine for some time without any noticeable improvement in your symptoms (including weight gain), it may be worth considering alternative medications.

Levothyroxine contains only synthetic thyroxine (T4), which may not be effective for everyone. T4 is the inactive form of thyroid hormone that needs to be converted into triiodothyronine (T3), the active version. Unfortunately, this conversion process doesn't always function properly in some individuals, resulting in high T4 levels and low T3 levels while on levothyroxine.

Weight gain is often linked to low T3 levels. By normalizing these levels with the T3 replacement hormone liothyronine or natural desiccated thyroid (NDT), you might find it easier to manage your weight. Studies suggest that this approach could be more effective for weight loss than using levothyroxine alone. Additionally, research indicates that NDT is associated with greater weight loss compared to levothyroxine.

One drawback of NDT is its limited availability in the US. However, alternatives exist, such as VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online. VitaliThy contains both T4 and T3 and is free from lactose, gluten, artificial coloring, artificial flavoring, eggs, fish, and shellfish.

Conclusion: a combination of a healthy lifestyle and medication can help you lose weight

Shedding pounds while dealing with hypothyroidism can be demanding, but by maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, and tracking your progress, you can steadily work towards your objectives. Keep in mind that your thyroid hormone regulates many of your body's processes, so it's vital to take care of it. Ensure you consistently take your thyroid hormone replacement therapy, such as the NDT supplement VitaliThy, and adopt beneficial lifestyle changes to alleviate thyroid symptoms. Managing hormone imbalances is key to your overall well-being.

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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